The ancient Greeks heard music in the spheres. Now an artist is looking to the weather with a piano that’s synchronized to passing clouds.
David Bowen’s Cloud Piano starts with a camera that records images of the sky. A computer program called Max/MSP then cuts each image into 88 segments, one for each note of the keyboard. The program collects data about the appearance of the clouds in each segment, which it sends to a robotic device that plays the keys in corresponding speeds and intensities. “If a dense cloud is detected, the key is pressed hard,” Bowen tells Quartz. “If it is a light cloud, the key is barely pressed at all. In this way, the intensity and speed at which the piano is played is determined by the intensity, speed, and shape of the clouds.”
Whether or not they qualify as music, the atonal sounds that the installation produces have their own curious and compelling logic, like the shapes we see in the troposphere.
Cloud Piano will be on view next month at a gallery in Saint Etienne, France. Here’s a video of the installation in action: